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How entrepreneurs can make the most of tight finances, even when hiring

Christina Hernandez Sherwood, eMed Editor, MedCity News

Anatomage, which launched in 2004 in San Jose, is an anatomy image software company specializing in 3D medical technology. Its chief executive is Jack Choi, a mechanical and software engineer who decided to start his own business after working for a dental device company. In the almost-decade since starting the venture, Choi said he’s learned much about managing tight finances and knowing when to jump in – and when to throw in the towel.

Hire the best you can – Though Anatomage isn’t yet able to hire experienced, strong managers, Choi said, he’s found an alternative staffing solution. “It’s easier to hire a quality entry-level person than a quality higher-level, experienced person,” he said. “You hire fresh college graduates and train them. They’re more energetic.”

Learn how to operate on a tight budget – In the company’s early years, only Choi’s savings and donations from family and friends funded Anatomage. Choi pitched the company to venture capitalists, but the investors didn’t buy in. “We were operating very frugally,” Choi said. “With a small amount of money, we were able to go for two, three years.” Once the company’s project was more mature, they gained customers. But the period of tight finances was beneficial, Choi said. “You appreciate the money,” he said, “and how you have to operate the company effectively.”

Know when to (temporarily) give up – After a patent application dragged on for three years with no resolution, Choi decided to stop spending money on the effort. “A patent is not critical for us because we’re a software company,” he said. The company will instead refocus on its patent efforts when it grows larger, Choi said.

Don’t wait until your product is perfect – When Anatomage developed its first product, Choi admitted the software wasn’t the strongest on the market. It’s rare that an initial idea becomes a multimillion-dollar opportunity, he said. So rather than waiting for the perfect innovation, Choi advocates just getting started. It’s much easier to build on an existing product, he said, and those next iterations make the company bigger and bigger. “You constantly have to re-innovate,” Choi said. “Your first step might not be a great step. But your second and third steps will be much bigger.”

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